CVN screenshot of Johnson & Johnson attorney William R. Martin delivering his closing statement
Darlington, SC - For the second time in less than a year, a South Carolina state court jury on Thursday failed to reach a verdict in a lawsuit filed by the widow of a deceased attorney who claimed exposure to asbestos supposedly present in Johnson & Johnson’s cosmetic talc products caused her fatal cancer.
Justice Jean Toal, the former Chief Justice of the South Carolina Supreme Court, declared a mistrial on Thursday evening after jurors informed her they were hopelessly deadlocked following a day of deliberations after a two-week trial. A similar outcome scuttled the initial trial in the case last May.
The lawsuit was filed on behalf of Bertila Boyd-Bostic, a South Carolina attorney who contracted a rare form of mesothelioma at the age of 30. Mesothelioma is a fatal form of cancer that normally affects the lining of the lungs and is often associated with asbestos exposure, but Boyd-Bostic’s cancer affected the lining of her heart.
She claimed she developed the cancer after years of inhaling asbestos fibers allegedly contained in popular talc-based products like Johnson’s Baby Powder and Shower to Shower. J&J denied that their talc products ever contained asbestos, and attacked the scientific experts backing up the plaintiff’s claims as based on faulty methodology and motivated primarily by personal injury attorneys.
Boyd-Bostic’s husband continued her lawsuit after she passed away, and his attorneys asked jurors to award $53.9 million for her death.
Thursday’s mistrial cements a recent and growing trend of J&J prevailing at trials over their talc products or forcing a mistrial. Earlier this week a California state court jury delivered a defense verdict in another J&J talc case, and last month another jury in J&J’s home state of New Jersey similarly cleared the company in another trial. Another case the previous month in Los Angeles also ended in a mistrial.
Given the substantial cost required to take these complex cases to trial, and the disparity in resources between J&J and most plaintiff’s trial teams, a mistrial is nearly equivalent to a defense verdict for the company.
J&J spokeswoman Kim Montagnino highlighted those recent defense verdicts in a statement provided to CVN.
“This is the second mistrial as a result of a hung jury on this plaintiff’s case, and follows two recent verdicts finding in favor of Johnson & Johnson,” Montagnino said in an email. “We look forward to a new trial to present our defense, which rests on decades of independent, non-litigation driven scientific evaluations, none of which have found that Johnson's Baby Powder contains asbestos.”
Attorneys for the plaintiffs from the South Carolina-based firm Motley Rice LLP did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
J&J was represented at trial by Barnes & Thornburg LLP and by Orrick Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP.
The case is captioned Antoine Bostic, individually and as Personal Representative of the Estate of Bertila Delora Boyd-Bostic v. 3M Company, et al., case number 17-CP-16-0400, in the Court of Common Pleas for the County of Darlington.
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